Improving Economic Data
We have noticed that despite an improvement in the economic fundamentals of the United States as per the robust manufacturing numbers, automobile sales data, and upbeat employment numbers in 2014, many go out of their way to find negatives in every economic report instead of focusing on the relativeness of the data. In other words, are we doing better in these areas than two years ago on an "apples to apples comparison" basis?
'Relative Improvement' versus 'Relative Perfection'
Sure there are things in most economic reports that could be better in an ideal world, and this world is far from ideal, and is coming back from a tough period after a structurally significant deleveraging process due to the cyclical natures of economies and business.
But to just pick apart negative aspects of a good econ report because growth isn't as fast as it could be, or employment isn't perfect compared to the 1950s boom is shortsighted and misses the real point of these reports, which is to show the trend in relation to the past six years. The relative improvement in the data over an annual basis compared to the previous three years, two years, and a year ago levels. Is the trend still in place, what is this trend, has a new trend emerged? This is what we are looking for in the data comparisons, and not whether the econ reports are 'perfect'!
For instance take the employment reports, we just had the fourth straight 200k plus Employment Report, a trend we haven't had since the year 2000-- yes, 14 years, and in even good and bad economic cycles, and people could point to the level of participation as their sole focus if so inclined.
I think there are many structural issues behind the participation rate that are much more complex than the simplistic view that there are simply not enough good paying jobs so these workers have given up hope. But regardless, first we have to employ the individuals who are in the job market, and we are doing a pretty damn good job of that right now "relatively speaking" to two years ago, when 80k was the norm, remember it is all about 'relative improvement', and not 'relative perfection' in the data.
Negativism & Cultural Influence
However, I think this cynical enduring pessimism goes far beyond economic reports, and is really a reflection of culture spawned through the modern news media and online dialogue that is message boards, blogs and social & political commentary.
It just has been hip, financially beneficial and downright uncreatively easy to take the negative angle regarding any subject for the last decade. Now I am not saying that one should ignore reality at all costs, read Dr. Norman Vincent Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking, and think everything is rosy in the world that we live in. But by the same token it seems equally, and even less beneficial in some respects, to always look real hard for negatives at the expense of acknowledging the complete picture in any thorough going analysis.
For instance, these are strengths in the report, these are the weaknesses of the report, but overall the big picture is telling us that this is a good economic report. Versus the trend today is to ignore anything good in an economic report, find a negative, push this angle for all it's worth, and celebrate one's 'critical thinking' abilities, and maybe even make a name for oneself in the all-important media landscape.
In short, one can always look hard enough and point out some kind of negative, because as negatives go, they often are the result of necessary tradeoffs for the positives in this world, even in highly productive and efficient operating systems.
People seem to like to hear negative stuff, they seem to revel in it at times, it sure seems to sell by the news produced in this country for the last 50 years, it almost provides entertainment drama that somehow is lacking in people's daily lives.
However, the evolutionary goal for humans is to best understand how their environment is actually functioning, in order to better adapt to this environment, or change this environment where possible, and improve quality of life as a species and civilization.
So you're a rebel, a real devil's advocate, go against the grain for the sake of going against the grain type individual, yep you found the negative, good for you! But is your analysis the best approximation for what is going on in the world, or has it become second nature to always see the negative in everything that you analyze from a behavioral standpoint?
Have you become conditioned to always see the negative at the expense of missing the bigger picture? By focusing solely on the negative, is your world view the best explanation for what is actually occurring in the world? Has your 'Negativeness' become reflexive and 'lazy intellectualism'?
Five Consecutive 200k Employment Reports
I don't know about you, but I will sure cheer another 200k plus employment report hitting the wire next month, things are looking up in the economy, and better times are ahead for many Americans! Society and the world is going to move forward, with or without you; it overcomes setbacks and strives to make improvements in progress towards greater goals. Unremittingly stuck in 'Negative Land' may be socially chic, but it sure doesn't capture what is the essence of human creativity and innovation, and it sure limits possibilities.